'Super bacteria' reportedly found in Olympic venues, Rio beaches

'Super bacteria' reportedly found in Olympic venues, Rio beaches

Published Jun. 11, 2016 12:36 p.m. ET

The latest report about the safety of the water in Rio de Janeiro -- both at Olympic venues and popular tourist beaches -- won't do much to ease health fears among athletes and fans.

Two as-yet unpublished academic studies have found drug-resistant "super bacteria" present in beaches that are set to host swimming events and in a lagoon slated to host rowing and canoe events, according to Reuters, which reports that it has seen the studies.

The first study it cites is said to have found the dangerous microbes at Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Botafogo and Flamengo Beaches.

The description given for the dangers of the "super bacteria" from Reuters:


The super bacteria can cause hard-to-treat urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary and bloodstream infections, along with meningitis. The CDC says studies show that these bacteria contribute to death in up to half of patients infected.

The second study, due to be released next month, details similar findings in the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon.

How did it get there? Back to the report:

Waste from countless hospitals, in addition to hundreds of thousands of households, pours into storm drains, rivers and streams crisscrossing Rio, allowing the super bacteria to spread outside the city's hospitals in recent years.

Renata Picao, a professor at Rio's federal university and lead researcher of the first study, said the contamination of Rio's famous beaches was the result of a lack of basic sanitation in the metropolitan area of 12 million people.

"These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea," said Picao from her lab in northern Rio, itself enveloped by stench from Guanabara Bay.

Both studies -- and a previous study that found similar results in Guanabara Bay -- used water samples from 2013 and 2014, but experts quoted in the report say there's scant evidence the problem has been addressed and is likely worse due to the nature of how the microbes spread.

The Opening Ceremony is set for Aug. 5 -- less than two months from today.